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In the cinema there are no regulations, least of all any laws of physics. The latter get a genuine battering in this cartoon-strip of a movie, based on the Graphic Novel by Mark Millar and JG Jones. Here, assassins jump from skyscraper to skyscraper, bullets fly round walls and the hero – our very own wee James McAvoy – gets to shoot the wings off a fly. As a yardstick, Wanted charges into Matrix territory with all guns blazing. And with McAvoy onboard, there’s even some charm and humour that The Matrix lacked.
Initially, Universal Studios were wary of casting McAvoy as their hero. After all, he is Scottish and only five foot seven inches tall. But the character, like Clark Kent, has two sides to him and at the outset he is all geek. An account manager bullied by his female boss, Wesley Gibson (McAvoy) leads a life of stultifying misery. Cheated on by his girlfriend, exploited by his best friend and apologetic to a fault, he stumbles through life dependent on a prescription of panic attack pills. But what he has learned to regard as panic turns out to be something else entirely: he is born with a rare condition of supersensory aptitude. It’s not until he’s 25, and bumps into Angelina Jolie in a pharmacy, that he realizes his life has been a front…
What follows is a familiar template (remember Stormbreaker?) but it is injected with such a heavy dose of class-A talent and adrenaline that one is swept along for the ride. Gibson discovers that his father was part of a 1000-year-old fraternity of assassins who were wholly in touch with their instinctive reflexes. And so Gibson is subjected to a brutal training regime that would kill a lesser mortal…
Much of the success of Wanted is down to two factors: the effortless affability of McAvoy and the visual imagination of its Kazakhstan-born director. The creator of the two biggest hits in Russian cinema – Night Watch and Day Watch – Bekmambetov brings an uninhibited pizzazz to the proceedings which keeps boredom well in check. There’s little that’s original or credible here, but it’s delivered with such verve and flair that one – almost – forgives it everything.
by James Cameron-Wilson
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